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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q3.31 TOC Q3.33 >

Question 3.32:
What is Sefer haBahir, The Bahir (The Book of Illumination)?


The Bahir is one of the oldest and most important of all Kabbalistic texts. Until the publication of the Zohar, the Bahir was the most influential source of Kabbalistic teachings. It is quoted in virtually every major Kabbalistic work and is cited numerous times by the Ramban in his commentary on the Torah. It is also paraphrased and quoted many times in the Zohar.

The name 'Bahir' literally means 'brilliant' or 'Illumination', and is derived from the first verse quoted in the text of the Bahir "And now they do not see the light, it is brilliant [bahir] in the skies", which itself is a quote from the book of Job (37:21).

This book is also called "The Midrash of Rabbi Nehuniah ben haKana". Although the Bahir is a fairly small book, 12,000 words in all, it was very highly esteemed. It was first published in Provence in 1176. Most Kabbalists ascribe authorship to Rabbi Nehuniah ben haKana, a Talmudic sage of the first century.

One of the most important concepts revealed in it is that of the ten Sefirot. Also discussed are the opening verses of Genesis and their true meaning; The mystical aspects of the Hebrew alphabet; A discussion of Gilgul [reincarnation]; The 32 paths of Wisdom, and the Tzimtum, among other topics.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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